Encouragement Walks with Us and Jason–Keep Casting

Life is always multiple-choice. This or that. Up or down. Verities or fake news. Triage…all the time.

Today Diane and I and Jason are walking with encouraging news. They’ve taken off the breathing tube, his first non-garbled words to Diane, “Mom, I love you.” And then. Ah, so Jason. He asked for Pepsi. When told, “Not now,” he was not happy…Yep, so Jason.

The woods still envelop us. However, we have been so encouraged and partnered by incredible medical staff and so many of you who have sent notes, offered prayers. Wow, such comfort and strength. Thank you…so very, very much.

Am shifting my game plan, although not my “other focus.” Now that I’ve concluded my wonderful-experience preaching/pastoral care ministry in Lexington, I will re-arrange my fishing schedule. Want to make sure Jason’s much better—when that happens, they’ll transfer him to a therapy center. Yesterday it was so wonderful, the therapists helped him sit on the side of the bed. Ah, one step at a time…in the woods, yes, but not controlled by the woods. During Advent when Jason was in the hospital for 3 weeks our Advent sign, “Believe” was on our front door. We’ve taken down the manger scene, but the sign remains. For we do BELIEVE God’s promise to never leave us will always be kept. And. Your friendship is one of God’s greatest blessings.

In all that, even though it was two years ago, I came upon two pictures posted on Facebook by my Forks fishing guide, Bob Ball. Zorba, my Oregon guide and I will hopefully have our 5th Forks adventure in March, in hopes Jason is much better. The two pictures bring me so much joy…for part of me…my DNA for sure, is fishing. Not surprised? The first picture is my playing a steelhead in the dawn of a foggy day. The second, look closely, you can see the bobber and under it a 14-pound wild steelhead. It was kept alive and was taken to a brood pond so it could help create more steelhead in the future.

So, in thought and prayer and presence, we love on Jason.

Still, I look at these pictures and know…in my heart of hearts, my casting’s not done. Nope, not done at all. My love and gratitude to you who care…means the world to me and Diane and Jason.

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Update on Jason’s Condition

Wasn’t until I stood on my former 8th grade teacher’s porch, a week before ordination in June of 1966 that “gratitude” became common and necessary. I went to Miss Agnes Carter’s home, she retired a number of years before I believe, to thank her for preparing me for ministry. Yes, somehow being able to diagram sentences, know it is “he’s better than I” and not “he’s better than me” is proper. Knowing the prepositions and being and linking verbs…helped in this world demanding communication. She didn’t know who I was and didn’t understand what I had said in affirmation of her teaching. I stood on the porch and wept…I was too late in gratitude to her…but promised God I would NEVER be tardy again. Try my best to keep that promise.

Yesterday I shared our gratitude to the doctors and nurses in Jason’s ICU room, for their continued skill, wisdom and knowledge and tremendous caring spirit. Some took me aside to comment in this manner, “Thank you for your gratitude, it helps more than you’ll ever know.” I even affirmed Suzanne, the primary ICU nurse for Jason, “You come to us as an angel impersonating a human being.” And. Meant it fully!

So, this morning, Saturday, January 13, 2018 I am grateful. As I throw pitch after pitch to strike down the foe, Jason’s illness, and hope there are more strikes unhittable than wide of the plate.

Of course the road ahead is not guaranteed, but we are encouraged, knowing that the illness hitting the pitch can always occur. Not for details, but Jason’s blinking his eyes upon requests, wiggling his toes, squeezing his hand, all signs that the road to recovery is being taken.

We don’t hold our breath. Rather, we breathe and offer prayers of gratitude to God that we are not alone. So many of you have shared your support and prayerful spirits. It makes only for the good, for comfort and inner peace.

We continue throwing the ball and look with hope that someday the illness will throw down the bat and walk away. Nothing wrong with hope. And absolutely nothing wrong with gratitude.

Miss Carter smiles from heaven and says, “Mark, do good and do it well.”

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Let Me Share My Pitch

Epiphany was on January 6, 2018, the Breaking Forth of Light—

Today, even though three days later, I had a personal epiphany.

Went like this in a telephone conversation with a trusted friend. The response was to the latest blog sharing about Jason’s brain surgery to remove the hematoma and his current very perilous condition in ICU.

The friend and I visited…the sharing was the dearest…support and concern for Diane, Jason and me. I then lapsed, or maybe plunged ahead without thinking, traipsing through the dreaded “What If?” game. Had to do with what will happen in our world of scary medical conditions, what will happen to our grandsons, what will…what will…what will.

The friend’s middle name is hyphenated PATIENCE-WISDOM. The inquiry came: “Mark, think about when you were a baseball pitcher. What was important?”

I didn’t hesitate, “The batter…get him out.”

The question followed, “What about the next batter?”

“I only pitch to one batter at a time.”



The rest of this day, Tuesday, January 9, I relived my baseball life…at the age of 7 getting my first glove, the 4 years at Jefferson High School pitching, the 4 years at Stanford with a baseball scholarship, the 5 summers of playing semi-professional baseball in Portland. I had forgotten [truth!] that as a high school senior, much to my surprise [honestly] I ended up with the highest Portland High School League batting average. Didn’t forget my last game, circa 1962, pitching in Battle Creek, Michigan for the Archer Blower [Portland] semi-professional team, the semi-final game of the Amateur Baseball World Series. Wow, we won and then the next night Cecil Ira [God rest his soul] pitched us to a Championship Victory.

I thought of my pitches…only had 4. The fast ball, the curve ball, the change-up and the slider. My slider was my go-to-pitch. Certainly wasn’t the best pitcher in Portland high school…Mickey Lolich was from another high school…won 3 games in the World Series for the Detroit Tigers. Nor was the best in college…Jim Lonborg was—pitched the Red Sox to a World Series triumph.

But, I knew in my heart of hearts and left arm, that I was my best. I knew that.


So what?

The So What is today and tomorrow and the 3rd dawning day and beyond that I’m a pitcher. And there’s only one batter. No other. Now that batter is Jason’s Illness. I’ll join Diane and the medical staff and all our family and friends in beating the illness. That’s my pitch now.

The next batter? I don’t have a clue. But I do know. I’ll be ready. I will.

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Jason’s Emergency Brain Surgery

Sunday night, January 7, 2018

Today went as not planned. Early this morning Jason felt dizzy and imbalanced. At the hospital a CT Scan showed serious problems, bleeding in the brain. The neurosurgeon went over the scan with us, pointing out a hematoma a little larger than a golfball in the lower back of the brain. Surgery was risky but necessary. Jason was not able to respond so Diane made the decision to proceed with surgery.

The neurosurgeon removed the hematoma, helped to increase the blood circulation in the brain. Jason has been sedated with many doctors monitoring his condition. The next 48 hours will be critical in terms of Jason’s initial recovery from this major surgery.

As you know Jason was hospitalized over 3 weeks recently to battle C3GN, an anti-immune system failure that attacks the kidneys. It’s unclear where all this stems. Still, Diane and I pray fervently for strength and ask God to be a healing presence with and for Jason.

I had hoped to preach my concluding sermon today at the preaching/pastoral care ministry at the First Christian Church in Lexington. Obviously that didn’t happen. They continue to be very special people, sending notes of support and love. Yes!

We do not know where all this leads. I ask for special prayers for Diane. Jason’s her only child. He’s 38 and has had many medical challenges, starting at birth. She’s incredible, but energy isn’t always full, as we all can appreciate.

In any case, I wanted to update you, asking for prayers.

Blessings and Healing,


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Three Ways To Welcome The New Year

A New Year with a common greeting, Happy New Year. Important. Am finding more important, in terms of our self-well-being, two additional—not for replacement but for addition–two additional greetings, which cannot be said “down deep they are shallow.”

One is Peaceful New Year. The peace that doesn’t require absence of war or conflict, but is experienced in the soul, the Shalom, the “I’m gonna be okay no matter what.”

The other is Hopeful New Year. The following quote from Rebecca Solnit was shared by my wonderful friend, Dr. Bryan Austill. He and my Rabbi Guide are my partners when fly-fishing in Colorado. Bryan’s hats are a Methodist Minister and Clinical Psychologist. The three of us—Rabbi Guide would endorse this quote, I know—have a great time releasing trout after the catch. Another moment of hope and peace, but this quote brings me such deeper value…may it for you also!

Happy New Year.

Peaceful New Year.

Hopeful New Year.

A trilogy of value.

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes–you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and knowable, a alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

But hope is not about what we expect. It is an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world, of the breaks with the present, the surprises. Or perhaps studying the record more carefully leads us to expect miracles – not when and where we expect them, but to expect to be astonished, to expect that we don’t know. And this is grounds to act.

Cause-and-effect assumes history marches forward, but history is not an army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later, sometimes a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do; sometimes those millions are stirred by the same outrage or the same ideal, and change comes upon us like a change of weather. All that these transformations have in common is that they begin in the imagination, in hope.”

Rebecca Solnit

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He Only Wore A T-Shirt

A person’s gotta do something. T-shirt and all.

It’s Saturday morning, need to marinate on what to say about Mary, the mother of Jesus. A few ideas are perking…she was humble, maybe she wasn’t the first one to be asked to birth God’s Son, the common always has a future…something like that.

Then I read this link. How powerful. The devotion of a 13-year-old, for his momma and three siblings. The ways in which the police joined in.

THAT. Very focused upon THAT. Offers the essence of living. To do something that improves the self, but reaching more to improve others.

A message that bespeaks benefit. But even more. A message that shouts necessity for doing for others. For certain, there ARE times when it’s more blessed to give than receive.

Happy New Year, Happy Epiphany, Happy Grow well in 2018.


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The Alphabet Ends In Y [In Memory of Sue Grafton]

I understand, “An alphabet that ends in Y.”

It’s December 29, 2017, almost 5 p.m. on Friday [yep, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere]. So, before I write another letter or paragraph or whatever, I’m pouring the single malt, two fingers, not more or less.

First, let me take you back to a sabbatical leave I took as Conference Minister, probably 2003. Stayed in a family’s condo in Frisco, Colorado. Had a regular schedule, write in the morning, nap in the afternoon and learn how to fly fish with Matthew Krane, who became my Rabbi Guide. Worked pretty well focused on my first novel, ‘Murder On Tillamook Bay,” even wrote a synopsis.

Returned to Austin—Diane and I had been married two years. Saw in the Austin paper that Sue Grafton the novelist would be speaking in Austin at a bookstore, the night I returned. Quickly typed out the synopsis, fueled more by energy and enthusiasm and anticipation than any skill, put it in the envelope, and wrote Sue Grafton on the envelope. Showed up at the bookstore. I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see any other men…all women, many of whom were Kinsey Millhone wannabees. Sue explained how she got into writing novels, how many books publishers refused. She then said she’d sit at a table and sign her new book. For info she was the alphabet mystery writer…forget the letter of that book.

Instead of standing in line [I hadn’t purchased the book] I put on my dash and run hat, went in front of the first person [hey, this wasn’t Southwest Airlines with a number in hand], smiled, “Thank you, Ms. Grafton,” and laid the envelope on the table in front of her. Never looked back.

The next morning my phone rang, didn’t recognize the number. I answered. A question, “Hello, is this Dr. Miller?” I agreed to the question. She then said, “Dr. Miller, this is Sue Grafton calling from the Austin Airport, about to get on my plane for Santa Barbara. I read your synopsis. It is remarkable and very grasping. Would you do me a favor and send me the first fifty pages? I’d like for my staff and I to read it.”

WHAT? I’m not sure I answered, my hand shook so damned much I wasn’t sure I wrote down her address correctly! Again, WHAT?

Then my imagination kicked into gear. Who could play Tricia Gleason—maybe Gail Foster? Who could play Creighton Yale? Morgan Freeman was a cinch. I had a friend who helped Robert Redford in “River Runs Through It” and was told my “Murder on TB” was the Oregon Coast version of “River Runs Through It.” Do they give Pulitzer’s for novels? Didn’t consider it out of control fantasy…nope, just a fertile imagination. Tricia? We gonna make it woman!
Three months passed. Then. A personal hand-written letter from Sue Grafton. I probably offered 1,000 prayers and turned East or maybe West, opened it. A short note, “Dr. Miller, good luck in your writing.”


Folks, that was my first memory, but not overruling. What overruled was for years Sue Grafton didn’t stop writing me, ALWAYS showed interest in my writing. How good is that?

I would write her about how much I appreciated her wordsmithing.

Then yesterday. I shared with friends personally it was a banner day, the current Tricia Gleason novel, “Truth Uncovered” was sent by my publisher to the printer. I then learned the NW fishing magazine, SALMONTROUTSTEELHEADER, its January issue, included two articles about the salmon trip with Brian and catching my first 20# steelhead. Wow, what a day.

Then. Now. Sue Grafton died at 77. My age! I believe we were born in June of 1940. My eyes flooded with tears. She finished the Y novel in August, but hadn’t started the Z novel. Her husband and a daughter said, “Our alphabet will now end with Y.” Poignant. Touching. Powerful.

Sue Grafton? In a way I now realize, she was always part of Tricia’s next steps. No, Tricia wasn’t Kinsey, but for me Tricia Gleason is so very special and dear.

On this day, I tip and sip the single malt. And offer prayers of thanksgiving for the caring spirit of Sue Grafton and her interest in my writing. I know. I know so well. Because of her call and initial reaction to the synopsis of my first novel, there is something there. Maybe I’m still trying to find it…but I know that Tricia will help me, no less than Kinsey helped Sue. God Bless you Sue Grafton and give rest to your soul. My life is so much better because you called me from the Austin Airport. Amen!


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